How to make Execution Excellence your Vantage Point

Execution Excellence. What a great phrase and so much talked! It reminds me of legends, iconic performers and athletes. The 300 of Sparta, elite military special forces units, the agent of our heart James Bond 007, legendary Ajax of 70s, Nadia Comaneci the five-time Olympic gold medalist, Leonidas Kavakos the famous Greek violinist and conductor and many others. It may also reminds us of our teams, or may not …

So, is it so much important and how do they do it? How can we do that too?

Yes, it is important. Actually, it is very IMPORTANT! As Steve Jobs put it, “To me, ideas are worth nothing unless executed. They are just a multiplier. Execution is worth millions.” And although the ultimate success is a mixture of  high performance and right strategy, I am sure that many leaders will agree that if they have to choose, it is better having an average strategy with superb execution than a superb strategy with poor execution.

Assuming that we have set the right structure and that we have a team with high caliber people, here below are the 8 Key Steps of a great execution, as we have learned them over our multi year engagement in missions to which execution excellence was vital to succeed.


1. Connect the team with the company

Of course, there must be very good relations and climate among the members of team. But these are the obvious and basics. Here we mainly refer to a greater scope: the sense of Belonging (belonging to a Family, to the Company) that the team has to have, as well as the Sharing of key information for it to be able to deliver its goals.

To make this happen, we have to make the team aware of the Company’s Vision, Mission, Purpose and Values and how all these are connected with each other. Be careful to be realistic and pragmatic, instead of theoretical and utopic. And after, a clear description of the team’s own Mission is needed for it to know and understand why it is there and what it has to do.

Similarly, the team must be aware of the company’s overall Objectives and Strategies and all other necessary information. The greater context must be very well understood.


2. Set high pace and standards

Usually, execution excellence relates to Speed and Accuracy. These are two key characteristics of High Performing Teams.

Make sure that the team moves at the pace of the fastest member instead of the pace of the slowest, not even the average.

Develop a laser-focused approach, by providing to the team all necessary means: training, coaching, performance reviews, sharing of best practices, hardware and software.


3. Aim correctly and clearly

Define correctly the Goals: What have we got to do and Why? When we have got to do it and Who is involved? Be optimistic and realistic here. “Mission:Impossible” may be a great film for Hollywood, but it is a bad idea for business planning.

And after, accompany these goals with a crystal clear set of SMART Objectives, e.g. measurable targets which they serve to successfully attain the goals.


4. Analyse the situation

Get a deep understanding of the greater environment within which the team will execute its mission.

Strengths and weaknesses, opportunities and threats, the economy and market situation, legislation, channels, key customers and competitors, available resources, obstacles and constraints, etc., must be analysed. In this way we improve the effectiveness and efficiency of strategy and plan, but also we increase the confidence of the team, as people feel that they control very well the situation.


5. Define the key challenges and the jobs to be done

And now, the time for decisions has come. As for many events, Pareto rule applies in business too. Roughly 80% of the effects come from 20% of the causes. In our case the causes are the key strategic decisions we make regarding the Key Challenges we will face, as well as the Jobs To Be Done in order to carry out effectively our mission.

Be very focused and highly selective in this part. During the schedule you will meet various forces, external and internal, that will blur the landscape. But as in life and in battles, so in business things are not always clear; and you can not do it all, you have to select, you have to decide. Do the right choices regarding the key challenges and the jobs to be done accordingly in order to achieve successfully objectives and goals.


6. Plan execution

Execution Planning is one of the most essentials parts and must be embedded in a vey concrete way within our schedule. It is about all the detailed steps which ensure that Jobs To be Done will be carried out with success. It is a platform that if properly and consistently implemented, it can make the team to exceed expectations and execute the mission with excellence and beyond standards.

Execution Planning helps us to visualise How Success Looks Like and schedule all necessary steps to make it happen. For example, from an FMCG commercial perspective it can be a platform that contains in a systematic and standardised way the learnings, knowledge and standards about Consumer and Shopper Insights, Market Segmentation, Picture of Success, Coverage Plan, IT tools, Training and Change Management, Picture of Success Scorecard, Incentive System and Target Setting and Routines.

The risk with the above approach is for the team to view it as another out of the many bureaucratic processes that usually exist within organisations. Also, it contains Change and usually people and teams behave defensively towards change. What we have learned  throughout the years is that in order To Make It Work and unlock the potential, it is necessary to:

    1. Explain why we need a holistic approach to Execution Planning and how it works.
    2. Keep it simple, lean and mean.
    3. Be persistent and consistent.
    4. Standardise and automate as much as possible.
    5. Turn your attention to Change Management and Key People.

If done so, you can make it work and make people feel proud and happy, to that they own a powerful, user-friendly and enjoyable playbook that brings added value to business, customers, but also to their own professional background.


7. Inspire and reinforce

This is the moment for strong Management and also for a very strong Leadership and it is a very important and inspirational chapter on it’s own.

In order to achieve execution excellence we need to be able to:

  • Make the team to perform consistently beyond expectations and exceed standards (A→A+). This means strong management.
  • But for the team to be able to conquer such a challenging state on an ongoing basis, we need also to be able to bring Change (B→A). This means strong Leadership.

In general and in relation to execution excellence, we need leaders who:

  • Lead by example, lead from the front, by action, encouragement and reward.
  • They lead by Rules, Exchange, Inspiration and by their own Personality.
  • They are able to adjust to a situation but also to transform their teams, in order to make them fly beyond.


8. Evaluate

Evaluation must be an integral part of our way to excellence and success. Either we talk for field execution, or an advertising campaign, promotion, negotiation, presentation, … whatever the battle is, we have to evaluate the implementation. If we want the wheel of I.D.A.F. (Information→Decision→Action→Feedback↵) to roll effectively, then we have to continuously Measure Progress, Feedback, Learn, Adjust and Improve.


Key Takeaway

Execution Excellence is a state which if achieved, it can give us a clear advantage over our competitors. A great execution can change the game. And although it is hard to achieve, it is not a rocket science. A big part of it depends on the jobs to be done and the decisions we take prior to execution, as well as on the leadership we show during the act.

Imagine how a great execution looks like and commit to it. And then it will happen. Because what will happen is what you think will happen. Because if you can dream it, you can become it!


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